March 1800, Scots Magazine published ‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi: Stanzas on viewing the ornaments of Tippoo Sultaun’s Throne in the Treasury at India House’:
Ah! What avails the golden ore?
The ruby’s or the di’mond’s flame
When Heav’n’s high hand protects no more
And grandeur is an empty name.
Here’s a picture I took in Tippu Sultan’s Summer Palace in Bangalore. It’s not where his throne was or anything, it just got me thinking.
1799. Tippu Sultan’s throne was captured after his defeat at the battle of Seringapatam in the 4th (count ’em) Anglo-Mysore War. In the days of looting that followed, Tippu Sultan’s throne was dismembered and dispersed, the stuff of legend, a furniture version of the story of Sati. Four British mercenaries were hanged for disorderly conduct in the chaos that followed, but the spoils of war mad it to the right places: Windsor, Powys, Calcutta…
Gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, pearls, silver gilt
42.0 x 20.0 x 28.0 cm; stand height 22.8 cm
Made for Tipu Sultan; acquired by Marquess Wellesley for the Directors of the East India Company, 1799; by whom presented to George III, 1800 (BL Indian and Colonial Collections R. 3/98, p. 477); by whom given to Queen Charlotte; by whom bequeathed to four of her daughters, 1818; by whom given to George IV, 1818
A gem-encrusted gold finial from the octagonal golden throne of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, has been auctioned for 3,89,600 pounds, auctioneers Bonhams has said.
An eyewitness, Benjamin Sydenham, wrote of finding Tippu Sultan ‘wounded a little above the right ear, and the ball lodged in the left cheek, he had also three wounds in the body, he was in stature about 5 ft 8 in and not very fair, he was rather corpulent, had a short neck and high shoulders, but his wrists and ankles were small and delicate.
‘He had large full eyes, with small arched eyebrows and very small whiskers. His appearance denoted him to be above the Common Stamp.
‘And his countenance expressed a mixture of haughtiness and resolution. He was dressed in a fine white linen jacket, chintz drawers, a crimson cloth round his waist with a red silk belt and pouch across his body.
‘He had lastly his turband and there were no weapons of defence about him.’